Workers Need Not Apply

There are a number of web sites that report on news of the Lower East Side: The Villager; The East Villager; The Lo-Down; NoHo News; to name a few. There are also more personal-type blogs that cover local events. Of all of these, only one reported on the recent walkout by fast-food workers that occurred on August 29, even though there are twenty fast-food restaurants in the Houston-to-14th, Avenue D-to-Broadway quadrangle. That site was Quilas.

The Villager is owned by NYC Community Media LLC, which owns the following papers: Chelsea Now, Downtown Express; The East Villager; Gay City News; and The Villager. Not one of these papers mentioned the day of walkouts, neither announcing that it would occur, nor reporting on it afterwards, despite the number of fast-food restaurants that exist in this area:

local-newspaper-map

Although these papers position themselves as neighborhood newspapers (with the exception of Gay City News), they are relatively uniform in their reporting (many of the same stories, written by the same people), and absolutely uniform in their endorsements of political candidates for the primary election:

endorsements

NYC Community News is itself owned by Jennifer Goodstein. Through each of these newspapers, they demonstrate their hostility to workers’ interests. In their endorsement of Christine Quinn for Mayor, they write:

    She would be a tough negotiator with the unions, which will be critically important for the next mayor.
    The East Villager, The Villager.

    …the city wrestles with fundamental questions about how policing is carried out as well as critical challenges regarding affordable housing, schools, healthcare access and public employee union contracts [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Chelsea Now, Gay City News.

    She also understands the city’s budget process, and is an experienced hand who can run the difficult labor negotiations to come. [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Downtown Express

Both of these papers (The Villager and The East Villager) also recently ran an article titled “Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores?” followed-up a month later with “Who has the guts to fight for our small businesses?” Advocating for small business is a coded way of attacking workers’ rights. Small businesses don’t want the minimum wage to increase, nor do they want paid sick days. Neither do large businesses, but they can’t very well advance their agenda by writing: “Who has the guts to fight for our large businesses?”, or “Who has the guts to fight the increase in the minimum wage?” They know that if fast-food workers are successful in achieving their goal of $15/hour, it will have an upward push on their own workers’ wages.

Interestingly enough, through The Villager and The East Villager, NYC Community News endorsed a Republican candidate. They describe him as “a self-made man,” which is true only if “self-made” means on the backs of his workers.

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The “personal-type” blogs didn’t write anything about the walkouts either. In their effort to oppose chain stores, they cannot bring themselves to support the people who work in fast-food restaurants (unless they can use it as a cudgel against the chains themselves). For that matter, they don’t support the workers who work in the small businesses they favor. It’s as I wrote before, workers are not a part of the “community”. Community members are shopkeepers and their customers, only. But even that’s tenuous, as I will discuss in a future piece.

When I first started writing Quilas, I wrote that some day the banner of “East Village” activism would be raised to fight the increase in the minimum wage. I think that day is drawing near.

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Fast-Food Workers Call for Nationwide Walkout Aug. 29

Emboldened by a series of smaller walkouts this past year, workers at fast-food restaurants are calling for a nationwide walkout this Thursday, August 29.

Below is a map, based on one published in the NY Times last year, with the locations of fast-food restaurants in the “East Village”.

fast-food

This is a chance for people who claim to care about the “community” to stand with the people who work here. Choose your location and be there to support them! Walk the picket line with them. Document the action. Send your photos to Quilas.

No 7-Eleven NYC, Labor, and “Free Markets”

This past Saturday (April 6), the local small-business association No 7‑Eleven NYC (N7E) held an event in Tompkins Square Park. This is how they advertised it:

n7e-tsp-announcement

I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it — I usually have a lot of work to do on Saturdays. As luck would have it, though, my mid-afternoon appointment got cancelled, so I was able to go. This is my review.

I guess the first thing I’d say is that N7E is undisciplined. They were supposed to begin at 1:00pm, but none of them arrived on time. Reverend Billy, an invited guest of theirs, paced back and forth waiting for them. They finally showed up around 1:10, carrying their signs and Wheel of Fortune.

I will discuss their activities in another post (perhaps). Today, I’ll just limit myself to their writings. This is the flier they handed out (I commend them for printing double-sided; at least they don’t waste paper):

n7e-tsp-flier1 n7e-tsp-flier2

Don’t strain your eyes trying to read it; I’ll enlarge the points I want to discuss.

n7e-tsp-flier1-blurb2

This is just deceitful. 7‑Eleven employs between seven and ten people per store (depending on the location), up to three-times more than a bodega.

The labor issue is probably the most significant one when comparing 7‑Eleven with bodegas. I’d like to point out something that happened just last week:

The workers at fast-food restaurants across the city went on strike. This is something that could never happen with bodega workers, for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that bodega workers are fragmented. Concentration of capital can enhance the solidarity of the workers, as more are brought into cooperation with each other by working in bigger firms.

On their web site, N7E’s propagandists insists that, in addition to employing more people, bodegas are, for workers, superior to chain stores, because bodega owners will hire convicted felons. I would love to see the statistics on this claim! However, on a more relevant note, they ignore that bodegas are exempt from most labor and health & safety laws:

  • Unemployment Insurance – Employees are paid in cash, so there is no record of their employment.
  • OSHA Requirements – If you have fewer than 25 employees, your penalty is cut by 60 percent. If your business has fewer than 10 employees, you’re exempt from many requirements that obligate you to report workplace injuries.
  • Discrimination Laws – Federal laws against discrimination in the workplace do not always apply to small businesses. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies only to employers of 20 or more people.
  • Employee Health Insurance – Beginning in 2014, employers will be expected to pay a “shared responsibility fee” for health insurance coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Small businesses are exempt from this rule. If your company has fewer than 50 employees, you have no healthcare responsibilities.1

Because bodegas workers are paid in cash, no taxes are withheld, leaving them with a large tax liability at the end of the year, and with no Social Security credits. Bodegas also frequently hire undocumented workers, whose protections are nil. Not only can they be fired for no reason, they are oftentimes threatened with deportation if they raise any objection.

nelp12

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N7E claims that 7‑Eleven’s presence in the neighborhood threatens the “free market”.

n7e-tsp-flier2-blurb1

I’ve already discussed this claim with an N7E ideologue in the Comments section of another blog, but I will point out to them, once again, that rather than it being threatened, this is exactly how the “free market” operates:

    The battle of competition is fought by cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of commodities demands, [all else being equal], on the productiveness of labour, and this again on the scale of production. Therefore, the larger capitals beat the smaller. It will further be remembered that, with the development of the capitalist mode of production, there is an increase in the minimum amount of individual capital necessary to carry on a business under its normal conditions. The smaller capitals, therefore, crowd into spheres of production which Modern Industry has only sporadically or incompletely got hold of. Here competition rages in direct proportion to the number, and in inverse proportion to the magnitudes, of the antagonistic capitals. It always ends in the ruin of many small capitalists, whose capitals partly pass into the hands of their conquerors, partly vanish. [Emphasis mine]

I’m certainly not against fighting the “free market,” but people who know better can see N7E doesn’t know what they’re saying. A real grassroots campaign would be up-front about wanting to subvert the “free market” in their effort to establish the type of neighborhood they desire. They would understand that there’s no way that could be avoided. They would advocate for the people who work in the bodegas, instead of for the owners. They might even want to restrict the number of bodegas, as even they realize there is an over-abundance of them:

n7e-tsp-flier1-blurb1

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The same organization that works to protect the rights of undocumented workers has an unfavorable assessment of bodegas as places to shop, as well:

nelp23

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So this was an assessment of parts of their most current flier. I addressed their main fallacies. In the second bullet-point on page two, they claim that there is a ban in New York City on the sale of sodas over 16 ounces, which isn’t true, but isn’t worth the time to refute at any length.

I shot some video of the event. I have to watch it again to see if I want to comment on it. I might just upload it to YouTube and post a link to it.

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1Small Business Exemptions
2Good Food and Good Jobs for Underserved Communities
3Unregulated Work in the Grocery and Supermarket Industry in New York City